Halifax mayoral candidates debate student issues

Students submit questions on issues from fair wages to environmental responsibility

Halifax mayoral candidates Lil MacPherson and Mike Savage debate at Dalhousie University on Wednesday night.
Halifax mayoral candidates Lil MacPherson and Mike Savage debate at Dalhousie University on Wednesday night.   Eleanor Davidson

Between occasional jokes and light-hearted barbs, mayoralty candidates Lil MacPherson and Mike Savage did their best to connect with student voters at an on-campus debate Wednesday night.

The debate, hosted by the Dalhousie Student Union and the Canadian Federation of Students, took place at Dalhousie and focused on the idea that municipal issues are student issues.

Students submitted questions before the debate and sent in video recordings and Facebook messages about the student-life topics they wanted the candidates to discuss.

Savage, a former Member of Parliament for the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour riding, said he was known as “the students’ MP” while MacPherson, owner of the Wooden Monkey restaurants, drew on her experience working “with hundreds of students.”

When asked about improving access to fair wages, she contrasted the 40 independent producers and farmers that the Wooden Monkey sources for their ingredients with the large-scale contractors that the Halifax Regional Municipality hires for snow removal.

“Instead of HRM hiring three big contractors and sending the money out and them hiring all kinds of small bees, let’s share the beehive, make sixteen more small businesses, and everyone will get the money.”

Savage’s response to the fair-wage question focused on improving wages across the city. “I would like to see Halifax be a pilot for the basic income in Canada … everybody would live above the poverty line. I’d like to see us, as a city, be that.”

MacPherson’s platform is centred on environmental initiatives and promoting small businesses, while Savage has encouraged developing Halifax’s downtown core.

Savage nodded as MacPherson proposed green initiatives for the city, and emphasized his support for environmental responsibility.

“What’s more important than building a bigger city, is building a better city, a city that respects the natural environment and respects the heritage on whose shoulders we stand and allows us to be proud of where we are,” he said.

After an hour-long discussion of policy and platforms, the candidates came back to the heart of the evening’s debate: the more than 30,000 university and college students in Halifax.

“I’m proud of you students. I’m rooting for you. I’m with you,” said MacPherson. “You are the change. You are the generation that will be known as heroes. Go get ’em.”

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